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Two continents, one mission

Local doctor starts medical charity for his native country

Posted: September 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Dr. Gudata Hinika, founder of Ethiopia Health Aid, at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. Photo by Charlia Kaijo for The Signal.

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As a trauma surgeon at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Ethiopia-born Dr. Gudata Hinika saves lives daily.

Paramedics rush to the hospital with stabbing victims, shooting victims, people hurt in traffic collisions — in short, all manner of injured people requiring urgent medical attention.

But his work cannot begin until those patients arrive at the hospital. And a source of sadness in Hinika’s life is the knowledge that in his native country, many residents die because they don’t have the luxury of being rushed to the hospital.

On one of his visits to his homeland in 2003, Dr. Hinika said, he met one of his relatives who told him of such a situation and helped convince him to do something about it.

The relative was walking with his 16-year-old son to the mission school the teen attended when the boy was hit by a car. Although he seemed OK and the two continued on, the relative soon noticed there was something wrong with the boy, who was complaining of a headache.

He first took his son to a clinic, but when the boy started to vomit the father decided to take him to a city hospital.
“He takes a taxi and they go down to the main road, to a bus and the bus drives them four hours to Adis,” Hinika said.

The length of the trip proved fatal. As they arrived in the city, the boy died of what was later determined to be an epidural hematoma.

“Had there been an ambulance, he would have gotten immediate care right there,” Hinika said.

Born in rural Ethiopia and raised by his grandmother, Hinika lived through the strife of starvation, drought and communist occupation as a child.

After struggling to earn his education, Hinika in 2004 began serving as chief of trauma and critical care surgery at California Hospital in Los Angeles. Now he cares for people in the Santa Clarita Valley who need urgent trauma care.

Determined to do something about the lack of ambulances in Ethiopia, Hinika founded a charity, Ethiopia Health Aid, and began raising money for ambulances in Ethiopia.

Gerber Ambulance Service donated four of the vehicles. Now fully stocked, they await transportation to the African nation along with an Ethiopia Health Aid medical mission team and emergency medical personnel who are expected to train local hospital teams in pre-hospital care and how to stabilize patients.

The last obstacle is raising the funds to send the vehicles and their teams to the African nation. Katreena Salgado, spokeswoman for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, was moved by Hinika’s efforts and set out to raise the transportation funds.

Through a recent sold-out benefit concert featuring Los Angeles band Moonpools and Caterpillars, Salgado was able to raise the money to ship one ambulance. But more is needed for the other three vehicles.

Anyone who wants to help the charity can contact representatives online at ethiopiahealthaid.org or email them at ethiopiahealthaid@gmail.com.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
on Twitter
@jamesarthurholt

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